Written by David W. Walters
The fans at Time Warner Cable Arena were buzzing with excitement in anticipation of the first game at home as the Charlotte Hornets (2-1), and the home team didn’t disappoint, as they battled it out to a gritty 99-97 victory over the Orlando Magic (2-1) on Monday night.
Third-string point guard Jannero Pargo continued his hot shooting this preseason after having to come in for Kemba Walker, who suffered a left knee contusion in the third quarter and would not return. Pargo scored 16 points for the Hornets on 60 percent shooting from the field, including two key three-pointers as the Hornets rallied back from a fourth quarter deficit.
The Hornets looked good throughout the game with the exception of the third quarter, where they were outscored 28-16, setting up what proved to be a dramatic finish at the Hive. Al Jefferson led Charlotte in scoring with 20 points, including hitting some key free throws and a clutch six-footer to push the lead to four while new starting forward Marvin Williams was held scoreless, but managed to grab seven rebounds. Bismack Biyombo had his best game of the exhibition season with seven points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots and Gary Neal scored 10 points with three assists.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a strong game driving to the basket and drawing contact, putting up 14 points to go with four rebounds and three blocks. MKG looked more comfortable with his new shooting form and, more importantly, he continued to shoot well from the charity stripe this preseason. Walker was stuffing the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists before leaving the game and Lance Stephenson had eight points, three rebounds and four assists but committed four turnovers as he continues to work his way into the Hornets offense.
Elfrid Payton had another good all-around game for the Magic, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. Payton pulled the game to within two in the final minute and also had two chances to tie the score at the end of the game, but his last second layup was blocked by Jefferson. Tobias Harris chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds while former Hornet Ben Gordon led Orlando in scoring with 17 points.
Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh sat out the game for Charlotte while Victor Oladipo, who has yet to play this preseason, missed the game for the Magic.
The Hornets are back in action on Wednesday with an 11:00 a.m. tip-off at the Hive against the Detroit Pistons (2-1), who are coming off a 89-91 loss to the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
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Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)